Sunday, April 8, 2012

Worst to Best: Steven Spielberg Movies

Oh, how I've neglected you, The Steven Spielblog...

Most of my creative energies are being channeled into my Stephen King blog, Ramblings of a Honk Mahfah.  

Secondary to that, I'm working on a James Bond blog, You Only Blog Twice, which is intended to serve as an outlet for me to talk about each of the movies as I rewatch them.  Lest The Steven Spielblog feel left out -- and it shouldn't, what with it not being sentient and all -- I've also been paying shockingly little attention to You Only Blog Twice lately.  I'm going to try to step up work on that one this year, and see if I can soldier my way through the rest of the films before Skyfall is released this fall.  It probably won't happen, but hey, a blogger can dream, right?

Either way, I'm also going to do my best to try and devote a bit more time to The Steven Spielblog.  I feel a bit wretched about the fact that Spielberg directed two films that were released last year, and I wrote a review of neither.  (Here's the short-short versions: I loved War Horse, and liked The Adventures of Tintin.)

To try and get back in the saddle a bit, and also just to have something to put on the site, I've decided to do one of my patented Worst to Best lists, with Spielberg's movies as the subject.

Which means I now have to decide what I think the worst Steven Spielberg movie is.

Luckily, that's not too hard.  It's:

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Brief Review of "Super 8"

Due to work-related issues, I watched Super 8 twice in one night earlier this week, and the mere fact that I wasn't bored at all during the second viewing (in IMAX!) obviously indicates something positive about the movie.

That said ... I wish I could report that I loved the movie.  I wish I could honestly say that it was automatically my favorite movie of the year to date and a strong, immediate candidate to still be my favorite movie of the year by the time the year was over.  I wish I could say that it lived up to the promise of its awesome trailer (the full one, not the teaser from months and months and months ago) and truly rekindled the Spielberg-suburbiana majesty of his films circa 1977-1985.

I wish that were the case, but, sad to say, it isn't.

You will note that during none of this have I said Super 8 is a bad movie.  It isn't; it's really rather good, in fact, and while it doesn't live up to the (possibly unrealistic) expectations put upon it by myself and by many others, it's still a solid sci-fi/adventure flick.

A spoiler-free review follows the jump.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Spielberg Interviewed by Ain't It Cool

Quick note:

There is an etnertaining interview with Steven Spielberg at Ain't It Cool News in which Quint sits down with the director to talk about Jaws.

Other topics touched on include Ray Harryhausen, the perils and merits of CGI, Spielberg's feelings about adding digital effects to some of his older films such as 1941, his feelings about having passed on making the sequels to Jaws, and a visit with then-President Ronald Reagan.

There's a lot of good stuff in it, so make sure you head over to Ain't It Cool and check it out!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Don't Call It A Comeback

I've occasionally found myself giving thanks for the fact that I was lucky enough to grow up during the period of time in which Steven Spielberg was becoming famous.  I was born in 1974, a little bit more than three months after Spielberg's first feature film, The Sugarland Express, was released into theatres to solid reviews and indifferent box-office results.  I wouldn't see that movie for almost twenty years, nor did I see Spielberg's breakthrough film, Jaws, immediately: somehow, I missed seeing that one for about fifteen years.

Ah, but it's a different story when it comes to Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  I can vividly remember sitting as close to the television as I could get -- shades of Carol Anne Freeling, whom I predated in this regard -- and watching it on ... was it the Sunday Night Movie, or some similar network airing?  It almost certainly was.  I can recall, dimly, watching 1941 the same way, and being amused by it in roughly the same way I'd probably have been amused by the Warner Bros. cartoons I watched on Saturday mornings.

By the time Raiders of the Lost Ark came out, I was old enough to reliably take to the theatre, and so I was taken, to that, and to numerous Spielberg-directed or Spielberg-produced movies which followed: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Poltergeist (!), Twilight Zone: The Movie (!!), Gremlins, The Goonies, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Young Sherlock Holmes.  I watched every episode of Amazing Stories when that show began airing, and my parents even decided that 11 was old enough to see The Color Purple.  I didn't understand it, but it connected with me in some way, just as Empire of the Sun would do two years later.  If you asked me a day after watching those movies whether I'd liked them, you'd have heard me respond in the negative; if you had asked me why I would nevertheless watch the movies when they came on HBO, I would have been unable to tell you.

I was bought a copy of, and read, eagerly and multiple times, E.T.: The Book of the Green Planet, the sequel novel William Kotzwinkle wrote based on a story by Spielberg.  I had the novelizations to E.T. and Gremlins and The Goonies and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, each of which became dog-eared despite the fact that when I read them, I knew they were vastly inferior to the movies ... but could not verbalize the reasons why, or even intuit them for myself.

As I grew up, so, slowly, did Spielberg's content: I enjoyed both Hook and Jurassic Park when they came out, but if I was being honest with myself, I knew something was missing, although, again, I did not know what.  When Schindler's List came out, then I knew what.

At this point, Spielberg's victimization by Oscar ended, and most of Hollywood and the critical community welcomed him into the fraternity of Artists.  And it was at that point, or perhaps a few years later once he began releasing his follow-up films, that audiences became less enchanted with Spielberg's works.  His tendencies ran toward darker, more adult, more emotionally troubled material, such as Amistad and A.I. and Saving Private Ryan and Munich, and when he dipped his toes back into the realm of the blockbuster popcorn flicks for which he'd become justifiably famous, he tended either to miss the mark (The Lost World, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) or deliver an interesting but deeply flawed work (Minority Report, War of the Worlds).  Spielberg had lost his touch.